May 6, 2009

Idea: Motion-detecting cell phone ringer

Sometimes it’s not appropriate to have my cell phone ringer on (like at the movies, for example), so I set the ringer to vibrate. It’s not a big deal if I forget to turn it back on right away because I keep my phone in my pocket, so I’ll feel the vibration when I get a call. But sometimes I come home and empty my pockets and forget to turn the ringer back on. I’ve missed calls because I didn’t hear the phone vibrate from across the room.

The phone has an accelerometer built in. So how about an optional setting for vibrate mode called “motion-sensing vibrate”? If it doesn’t detect any movement for, say, 15 minutes, it would automatically turn the ringer back on, and also make a noise if I missed a call in those 15 minutes so I know to check my messages.

Before automatically turning the ringer back on, it could vibrate steadily for 15 seconds as a warning indicator, just in case the phone is still in my pocket but I’ve somehow managed to stay perfectly still for the past 15 minutes (which seems unlikely to me). This would give me fair warning that the ringer is going to turn on so I can override it if needed.

Of course, if you keep your phone in a bag or purse, you would not want to use this setting.


How about location-aware settings, so it would always know to put the ringer back on if the phone knew you were at home.

That’s cool, but there’s nothing worse than somebody who leaves the cell phone on their desk with the ringer on, leaving you to listen to their ‘Yellow Rose Of Texas’ ringer every couple of minutes.

Maybe it needs a there-are-people-around-that-will-be-annoyed sensor also…

Aren’t you pretty stationary at the movie theater? You wouldn’t want the ringer to turn back on 15 minutes into the film.

Since you’re already using the accelerometer, overriding the 15-minute warning would just require shaking the phone a little.

Why not the other way around: You settle down in the cinema, turn off the sound. When you start moving about continuously for say 15 seconds, it turns the audio on. Possibly with a vibrating alert.

What really kills me is that my phone vibrates EVEN WHEN IT’S DOCKED! Uh, hello?! It’s obvious it’s not “attached” to me because it’s plugged in!

I use my iPhone as my alarm clock, so every morning it starts buzzing away in its dock along with the ringtone it plays. Every day for a year and a half! In my mind I imagine all the unnecessary wear and tear on the poor motor.

Why can’t they code it to recognize that it’s on AC power (and therefore tethered to the wall or your computer and NOT you) and disable the vibration? The phone already knows it is plugged in since the icon in the status bar at the top changes. What’s so hard about throwing an if(pluggedIn){ dontVibrate(); } statement in there?

I just want mine to read my mind and know when I want it to be silent and when I want it to have an audible ring. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

I’ve always thought it the other way around: use the accelerometer as a way to detect if a person notices the device. So if the person is in motion and the phone is still on vibrate and they don’t interact with it, they probably didn’t feel it vibrate and therefore the ringer should engage.

Perhaps different movement thresholds make sense here: light movement means “stay as is”, no movement for a timeout means “make noise”, and strong movement while ringing, but without interaction up means “make noise”.

Brian: I recall Series 40 Nokia phones that would use being plugged in as context for determining which “profile” you would use. When you plugged the device in, it would use a different profile that you could customize than when it wasn’t plugged in.

I would set it to “make a lot of noise” when it was plugged in, because that usually meant that I was charging it overnight or in the evening - either case I may not enjoy a subtle notification.

I think a silent mode with a time setting option attached to it would be a good idea. You go into a meeting that will last an hour, so you set it to vibrate for the next 60 minutes (scrollable up or down in 5, 15, 30 min or 1 hour increments - user defined). After the time expires, it goes back to previous setting.

I was just about to comment similarly to Mr. Wisdumb - a timer seems like the easiest option to me, and completely doable without changing anything in the phone except a bit of software.

If the phone can be an alarm, it surely has the ability to change modes on a timer.

My old Nokia phone had the capability to set a timed silent mode.

But then I had to “upgrade” to a model that has worse reception, buttons that tend to dial in my pocket, and no timed silent mode :(

I always thought a location sensitive ringer would be great, but recently thought it might be better to synchronize a phone to a personal schedule - for example to go on vibrate during scheduled meetings or class, then turn off vibrate during “free” hours in your schedule. This all would be synced with google calendar or outlook.

^Windows Mobile does that…but then you have to use Windows Mobile…

Mr. Wisdumb may have one-upped me. I think the timer is an even better idea. -David

How about instead you could call the phone, and then have the ability to press ‘1’ or maybe a custom string of numbers to make the phone ring?

In other words, after the phone is ringing, if you enter the special ‘password’, the phone will ring on loud. That way, if you’ve lost the phone you can turn on the ringer… The only problem is if your buddy wants to prank you when you’re in a meeting/taking a test and knows your password ;).

You could easily write an Android app to do this on a T-mobile G1.

Chad: the Locale app. does location-based action triggering. It may detect other events that are relevant, too.

re: Marcel’s suggestion of location-awareness, there’s already an app that does just that for Android phones (e.g., the T-Mobile G1).

Hi David-
Love the blog! Great idea. Have to still send you that background photo…just remembered. This is great. I am going to become a follower since I discovered google reader. I ALWAYS forget to turn the phone off vibrate and ALWAYS miss calls…all the time. Good idea!

I almost think that these days the accelerometer could distinguish between pocket-movement and bag/purse movement. And possibly detect fidgeting from a pocket.

You SUCK at design!!!!

smart idea but a lotta things need to be understood to use the feature…

All Blackberry phones have the ability to set custom ring/vibrate profiles based on whether it’s in a holster or case or not.

I would like to be able to pull audio in from my headset mic when I have my noise canceling headphones on. I love being able to block ambient noise out altogether, but I would LOVE to be able to control how much outside audio I can mix into my ears. I have to have some outside awareness of whats going on around me, and I should be able to control how much I get if I have the means to block it all.

I actually came up with a similar idea a couple of months ago, but what I was thinking is you could have a programmable vibrate setting. It would be great for college students who don’t want their phone to ring in class (and people like me who forget to turn the ringer back on and then miss calls). At the beginning of the semester, I could program in the days of the week times when I want my phone to go to vibrate and the program would stay active until I cancelled it. There would be an additional option for people who don’t have a set schedule of when they want the ringer off. When you change from ring to vibrate the phone would prompt you to put in the duration (30min, 1hr, 2hrs, etc) before the phone reverts to your normal ringtone.

I always wanted to have a cell phone that had a light sensor in the camera function. That way, the light sensor could tell when it’s dark (in my pocket) it would vibrate or ring louder, then when I set it on the table it wouldn’t.

I love all the ideas in the comments - consumers know exACTly what they want in a phone. We should ‘cloud-source’ one.
My idea is this: a phone should adjust its vibrate frequency to the surface it’s on. So, it vibrates a tiny bit, reads the accelerometer or mic to find out if it’s rattling like a banshee because it’s on a glass table, and slows down the vibe to make a moan instead. Or, if it feels that the vibration is muted (cause it’s stuffed into your jeans pocket) it pulses the vibe to make sure you notice.

I want a app for all samsung phone. So the ringer will turn on when i text it wheres my samsung. Much like the Wheres my Droid…… But it also give you a map on where your phone is

I want a app for all samsung phone. So the ringer will turn on when i text it wheres my samsung. Much like the Wheres my Droid…… But it also give you a map on where your phone is